Ex-Malawi leader on corruption case: ‘I am innocent’
August 2, 2017 | 0 Comments
Former President Joyce Banda will return to Malawi for first time since 2014 to defend herself in the Cashgate scandal.Malawi’s former president denied on Tuesday any wrongdoing in a corruption scandal that erupted when she was in office, saying she will return to the southern African nation to prove her innocence.
Joyce Banda is wanted for arrest over alleged abuse of office and money-laundering offences, police said on Monday.
More than 70 entrepreneurs, officials and civil servants have been charged in connection with the embezzlement of what is thought to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers between 2009 and 2013.
Banda, who was Malawi’s president for two years from 2012, left the country when she lost in an election to Peter Mutharika. She has not returned since 2014.
Banda has been living in the United States, serving as a distinguished fellow at Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC.
“I will be coming back because I never did anything wrong and I am innocent,” Banda told Reuters news agency in a telephone interview from South Africa, where she had arrived from the US.
“I am the only president who got to the bottom of corruption and instituted the first-ever commission of inquiry into corruption,” she added.
She was expected to proceed to Malawi after carrying out some charity work in South Africa.
James Kadadzera, a police public relations officer, said authorities had obtained an arrest warrant for Banda.
“The evidence gathered raises reasonable suspicion that the former president committed offences relating to abuse of office and money laundering,” he said in a statement.
While president, Banda ordered an independent audit of the corruption revelations, which was conducted by British firm Baker Tilly. The findings were released in 2014.
“Baker Tilly never linked me to any corruption and the rest is what everyone knows, that even some of my cabinet members were arrested. I never shielded anyone who was found to have been part of this,” she said.
A former justice minister and attorney general was convicted over “cashgate”, as the scandal came to be known, and is in jail, along with a number of former high-ranking government officials and business persons.
The corruption scandal led to international donors halting aid to Malawi.
Discovery Channel announces its top 10 finalists for the “Don’t Stop Wondering” Award at the Jozi Film Festival.
August 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 31 July 2017,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The search for the winner of Discovery Channel’s brand new award category at the sixth annual Jozi Film Festival has heated up. After receiving over 200 entries from across the continent, Discovery Channel is proud to announce the Top 10 finalists for the Discovery Channel ‘Don’t Stop Wondering’ Award.
From today and throughout August, each film will be broadcast on Discovery Channel and it will be up to viewers to decide which film should be chosen as the overall winner. Voting closes on Monday 28 August and each filmmaker stands the chance of winning a cash prize of $5,000 from Discovery Channel to go towards their next filming project.
“While this was Discovery’s first category in the Jozi Film Festival, we were thrilled with the quality and diversity of entries that we received,” says Dilek Doyran, VP of Commercial Development and Country Manager of Africa and the Mediterranean. “Our hope was to find films which captured the ethos of curiosity and celebrated the uniqueness that the African continent has to offer, and with films from Namibia, Swaziland, South Africa and Uganda, we are confident the shortlist represents this. We look forward to broadcasting the Top 10 films on Discovery Channel, and showcasing the many different ways of celebrating Africanism.”
The Top 10 Films:
“DISCOVERY”, by Manqoba Shongwe from Swaziland
We explore every day but neglect to learn. In this film, Manqoba took the time to pay attention to some of the things he saw in his everyday explorations and shares what he gathered. Manqoba said, “It’s a great honour to be selected as a finalist in the Discovery Channel ‘Don’t Stop Wondering’ category of the Jozi Film Festival. Not only is it validating for my work to be recognised in this manner, but it is also really cool for my voice to be heard on such a platform.” From Monday 31 July, 13:35
“PUPPETSULA”, by Michael Rodrigues and Shaun James from South Africa
Puppetsula follows Jabu, a puppeteer who travels to instill joy in all those that witness his fiery performances of traditional dances. Michael and Shaun said, “Coming from hardship and still having a passion to give joy to others is truly remarkable. We applaud Jabulani Simango and can’t wait to share his amazing talent with our country. Thank you to Discovery for providing a platform for his story to be seen.” From Monday 31 July, 20:00
“SITHAIDI: THE TRADITIONAL XHOSA BEAD ARTIST”, by Caley Kolk from South Africa
This film follows Sithaidi’s journey to work every day: a scenic 6-hour trek in rural Transkei. The story showcases how creativity overcomes seeming human adversity, old age and a lifelong polio condition, and how creativity ultimately inspires us to live. Caley said, “As a first time film maker, I am simply delighted our film has progressed to the Top 10. I am thrilled that Thaidi’s story is finally being seen by the world – she is a woman of great strength and her simple philosophy, cocky nature and tenacity is a continual source of inspiration to me. In her own words, she is number 1. I hope to report back to her that her film is number 1 too!” From Tuesday 1 August, 13:35
“THE ASCENSION”, by Dieter Du Plessis from South Africa
This short documentary follows the journal of a trail runner, with a voice-over that relates life to mountain climbing. Dieter said, “It feels like a door being opened after years of knocking!” From Tuesday 1 August, 20:00
“THE TRAGEDY OF AFRICA”, by Dusty Van Niekerk from South Africa
The Tragedy of Africa looks at Africa’s beauty inside and out, following the sad reality behind the harsh rhino poaching crisis which South Africa faces. Dusty said, “I am so grateful and excited to be a part of this amazing opportunity to share my film with everyone” From Wednesday 2 August, 13:35
“MR ABILITY”, by Okuyo Joel Atiku Prynce from Uganda
This is a story of Simon Peter Lubega, a physically impaired, creative artist who wakes up early every morning and works against all odds on his art pieces to raise money to support himself and his family. Okuyo said, “I am highly honoured to be set apart for this prestigious moment, amongst creative minds, by a world class channel. My first work as a director to be selected and aired on discovery channel is indescribable.”From Wednesday 2 August, 20:00
“EGG SLAP”, by Pressilla Nanyange from Uganda
Egg Slap explores a childhood game, football, but with a twist. Pressilla said, “I am beyond excited to be selected among the top ten; I’m feeling blessed.” From Thursday 3 August, 13:35
“SJANGALALA: THE NEW ERA”, by Siphiwe Phiri from South Africa
This is a documentary about a pastor who is breaking the stereotype surrounding the art of spinning cars. Siphiwe said, “I have been in the TV industry for over 8 years now and this is by far the biggest acknowledgement I have ever received for my work. Thank You to Discovery Channel Africa, Jozi Film Festival and ALL its sponsors for creating such a platform for young creatives like us! SIYABONGA!” From Thursday 3 August, 20:00
“NON-PEOPLE”, by Wesley Rhode from South Africa
This documentary celebrates the trials and tribulations of South Africa’s informal recyclers – people that are over looked and ignored. Wesley said, “Myself and my team who put this film together are extremely excited and feel blessed to be chosen as part of the top 10 films, we are happy that our hard work has paid off and that our vision and our story has been recognized.” From Friday 4 August, 13:35
“ANOTHER SUNNY DAY”, by Tim Huebschle from Namibia
This film tells the story of how life must be for someone whose skin has no protection from the sun, living in a country that averages over 80% sunshine during any given year. Welcome to Paulus’s life in Namibia. Tim said, “To have Another Sunny Day selected as one of the Top 10 finalists is one of those magical moments that rarely happen. I’m humbled by the opportunity and look forward to viewing the other nine magical works from across our continent.” From Friday 4 August, 20:00
Each film will be broadcast on Discovery Channel four times throughout the voting period. Voting opens at 10am on Monday, 31 July on the Discovery website www.discoverychannelafrica.com and closes at 10am on Monday, 28 August. The winning filmmaker will be flown to Johannesburg to receive their prize at the Jozi Film Festival awards ceremony on 24 September 2017.
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) satisfies curiosity and engages superfans with a portfolio of premium nonfiction, sports and kids programming brands. Reaching 3 billion cumulative viewers across pay-TV and free-to-air platforms in more than 220 countries and territories, Discovery’s portfolio includes the global brands Discovery Channel, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Science and Turbo/Velocity, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S., Discovery Kids in Latin America, and Eurosport, the leading provider of locally relevant, premium sports content across Europe. Discovery reaches audiences across screens through digital-first programming from Discovery VR, over-the-top offerings Eurosport Player and Dplay, as well as TV Everywhere products comprising the GO portfolio of TVE apps and Discovery K!ds Play. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.
In a World of Disarray, Africa Is Taking Steps Forward
July 31, 2017 | 0 Comments
At this juncture in mid-2017, while the Middle East remains highly turbulent and global security challenges remain acute from Korea and East Asia to Ukraine and Afghanistan, what is the state of security in Africa? A continent of fifty-four nations, ranging from the Arab regions of the north to the Sahel region and a number of subzones in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are of course many stories to tell. But three stand out. The net assessment for the continent as a whole, while far from rosy, has a number of promising dimensions.
Africa’s security situation might be summarized as follows:
First is the state of terrorism and extremism. This remains a tough and disturbing story, overall. Countries from Mali to Libya to Somalia have been afflicted, by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, and Al-Shabaab among the key perpetrators. Terrorist attacks have also occurred in places such as Kenya and Burkina Faso. It is hard to talk of improvement in any of these places. At least things are not getting worse on balance. Indeed, there has perhaps even some slight improvement in Nigeria in particular, where the fight against Boko Haram continues(and occasionally spills over slightly into neighboring countries like Cameroon), but where the International Institute for Strategic Studies reports a reduced fatality rate relative to 2015.
Second is the state of civil war and famine in several key countries in the general east-west swath of land that includes the semi-arid Sahel region of Africa. This is a tragedy happening before our eyes in real time. It involves a belt of nations overlapping with some of the countries suffering from terrorism and extremism. The Sudans, Central African Republic, Somalia and Nigeria are among the worst hit, with parts of these countries collectively now containing more than 15 million people at acute risk of starvation. Beyond the specific risks from famine, South Sudan continues to devour itself in pointless and petty violence that involves huge numbers of sexual crimes as well.
Other conflict zones in this swath of countries may be faring slightly better. Sudan does not have the degree of infighting it suffered a decade ago, even if it is far from peaceful. On June 19 of this year, the Central African Republic’s government and thirteen of the fourteen armed groups in the country signed an accord to end ethnic and religious conflict. However, it is too soon to know if this will lead to a meaningful trend towards stability.
Third is the continent writ large, encompassing the majority of the nations in Africa. Most of it is more peaceful that it has been, on average, since the waves of independence in the late 1950s and 1960s or during most of the Cold War and then the 1990s. On balance, Africa is slightly more stable (and somewhat more democratic) than ever before in modern times.
Of course, this is a provisional judgment—and whatever peace may be breaking out coexists near lots of ongoing conflict and also requires many peacekeepers to sustain. Indeed, there are currently eight United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa: UNMISS in South Sudan, UNISFA in the disputed Abyei region, UNAMID in Darfur, MONUSCO in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MINUSCA in Central African Republic, MINUSMA in Mali, UNMIL in Liberia and finally MINURSO in Western Sahara. Overall, there are over 92,000 personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.
In addition to collaborating with the UN in Darfur, the African Union has two active peace operations: AMISOM in Somalia, and the Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA). There are over 22,000 deployed AMISOM personnel, with most of its troops coming from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. RCI-LRA has a Regional Task Force of over 3,000 soldiers from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and CAR.
Political tensions over transfers of power, or more commonly, the absence of a transfer of power, make things dicey in several other countries, too. Too many leaders are holding onto power indefinitely, either through sham elections or no real elections at all, or the dominance of political organization and process in their respective countries that allows them to get elected more or less indefinitely. Not only DRC and Burundi, but Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola are notable examples of this dangerous trend. Even in a relatively benign case like Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, where the strongman leader has undoubtedly delivered much for his country, the tendency towards a “presidency for life” pattern of behavior puts democracy—and national stability—at risk.
Indeed, eight presidents in Africa have now amassed more than 229 years in power between them. These include: Eduardo dos Santos from Angola (thirty-seven), Teodoro Obiang Nguema from Equatorial Guinea (thirty-seven), Paul Biya from Cameroon (thirty-three), Idriss Deby from Chad (twenty-six), Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (thirty-two), Yoweri Museveni of Uganda (thirty-one), Paul Kagame of Rwanda (seventeen) and Joseph Kabila of the DRC (sixteen). Beyond just these cases, Africa’s trend towards democracy, after an impressive period of improvement in the 1990s and 2000s, has plateaued: Freedom House ranked four African countries as free in 1998, eleven as free in 2007, but only ten as free in 2016.
There are more hopeful political stories too, of course. In January 2017, former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh left the country after twenty-two years in power, marking the first president to peacefully hand over power in Gambia since its independence from the British in 1965. The Gambia’s peaceful transition of governance gives hope for future democratic elections. More significantly, a successful election in Kenya in August could give the cause of African democracy a substantial boost.
Southern Africa, including Angola and Mozambique, remains fairly quiet in terms of conflict if not necessarily politics. Most of West Africa is moving well beyond the civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s (and the Ebola crisis of 2014). Ethiopia, the continent’s second most populous state, may have quieted down somewhat after significant unrest a couple years ago.
On balance, there are ample troubles today in Africa, as always. Yet fatality rates are down more than half relative to the 1990s, according to data from the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and Uppsala University in Sweden among others (and economic growth rates, while slower the last couple years, have typically reached 4 to 5 percent annually in the 2000s, after decades of far worse performance). Overall, in a world characterized by disarray, it may be somewhat risky but still fair to venture that Africa continues to move gradually if fitfully forward.
*Source National Interest.Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Emily Terry is an intern with the Brookings Africa Security Initiative.
How much have development strategies changed in Africa since independence?
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
This week in the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular, we talk about economic development in Africa. In a broad study of nine African countries, Landry Signé examines innovation in development in his book, “Innovating Development Strategies in Africa: The Role of International, Regional and National Actors.” Signé kindly answered my questions about the book.
Kim Yi Dionne: As you observe in your book, both African and international development leaders invoke innovation in describing their development strategies. But how much have development strategies in Africa actually changed over the decades since independence?
Landry Signé: It depends on the way you think about innovation. In identifying innovation, most scholars focus on the content of development policy. They ask if a new development strategy is just “old wine in a new bottle,” usually on their way to explaining why a policy is doomed to fail. This substantive perspective often overlooks the slow-moving processes of some development innovations.
Most scholars have taken little interest in explaining development strategies in a procedural sense, at least when focusing on Africa. By procedural, I mean the forms, processes and mechanisms by which development strategies emerge, change and impact development outcomes over the long term.
My book examines both perspectives on innovation — substantive and procedural — and pays special attention to the lesser-explored one: procedural. Much of the research by scholars working from a substantive perspective find a lot of continuity in development strategies in Africa. But I find in my work that there are innovations — often incremental ones — which lead in the long run to much more substantial and often overlooked economic and institutional transformation.
After independence, African countries shifted from state-led development to various levels of state withdrawal in the 1980s, combined with strategies for economic integration and development. In the 1990s, states continued to disengage, but added social protection measures. In the 2000s, the emergence of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) have marked a return to a more significant role for public institutions and continentwide development strategies in promoting economic development in a more market-friendly context. Only looking at the content of strategies, and not taking into account the process of emergence and the long-term impact of policies would miss this incredible transformation over the last few decades.
KYD: An important point you make in your book is that development strategies can be considered innovations even if they fail. Is there a failure you think is a good example of innovation in African development strategy?
LS: New development policies, whether substantially or procedurally innovative, could lead to poor outcomes over the short run, but can also contribute to a much more important dynamic of change. For example, although structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have broadly been considered a failure, they have defined new rules of the game and practices resulting in better macroeconomic management, increased accountability and governance effectiveness. Together with debt relief and a favorable international context, SAPs thus contributed to the transformation and overall good economic performance of African economies in the beginning of the 21st century. When scholars only focus on short-term impacts, they overlook more transformational changes brought by apparently failed policies.
KYD: Your book examines development in nine French-speaking countries formerly colonized by France. Why did you focus on these countries?
LS: I aimed to explain the overall transformation of African economies since the 1960s, providing a big picture of the changes which have taken place in development strategies. To make the study manageable, I first constructed a continental puzzle inspired by Paul Collier and Stephen O’Connell’s classification of African countries by economic structure and economic policy orientation. I wanted the sample of countries I studied to be a mix of low and middle-income countries, oil producers and non-oil producers, landlocked and poor in natural resources and landlocked and rich in natural resources, those that are coastal and poor in natural resources and those that are coastal and rich in resources, and those with socialist-leaning economies and those that are liberal-leaning.
After finalizing the continental classification, I realized that enough former French colonies were well represented in all the relevant categories to cover the full range of criteria for the continental analysis. I ultimately chose Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo for many reasons.
First, as members of the CFA franc zone, they have similar monetary policies. At the same time, these countries had contrasting economic structures, economic policy orientations and development outcomes. These important contrasts, despite the countries’ similarities, were more important in my decision to choose Francophone countries, than their former belonging to the French colonial empire, even if both are intertwined.
Second, I wanted to look at countries that shared the same colonial power as part of a growing effort among African scholars to dismantle the myth that colonial heritage is the main driver of contemporary development strategies in Africa. More and more work shows that domestic political economies interacted with international influence to shape development outcomes.
KYD: How might we take what we learn from your study to examine development in — for example — former British colonies or former Portuguese colonies?
LS: My book’s goal was to better understand how economic development strategies emerge and transform economies in sub-Saharan Africa — not only in Francophone Africa. I offer a theory explaining change over time in African development policies that applies broadly to African countries that underwent structural adjustment, whether former French, British, Portuguese, Belgian or Spain colonies.
I focus on the dynamics of domestic political economies in African countries and on their interactions with external actors. Despite the asymmetry in power relations with their international counterparts, African governments still have agency in making decisions about their development. My book offers a framework for understanding these interacting dynamics in the emergence and evolution of economic policies and development institutions in Africa.
Finally, I’ll say that one takeaway from my book is that we should take a broader view. While we researchers witness institutional and political continuities in the short run, even minor innovations can give rise to great political, economic and social innovations and transformations in the long run.
*Source Washington Post.Landry Signé is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies, professor and senior adviser to the chancellor on international affairs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow, Tutu Fellow and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Follow him on Twitter @landrysigne.
Africa: Millions of Women and Children for Sale for Sex, Slavery, Organs
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Baher Kamal*
Rome — It is happening now. Millions of humans are forced to flee armed conflicts, climate change, inequalities, and extreme poverty. They fall easy prey to traffickers lurking anyone who can be subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour and even sell their skin and organs.
Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
The drama is immense. Every year, millions of children, women and men fall into the hands of traffickers, lured by fake promises and deceit, the United Nations reports once more, this time ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, marked every year on 30 July.
The “horrendous crime” is being committed now, while you are reading this article, and in public “salve markets”. See African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya
Buying and selling migrants is a big business. In fact, human trafficking has become a global multi-billion-dollar enterprise, affecting nearly every country in the world, according to UNODC’s executive director Yury Fedotov.
“Today, there are millions of people whose liberty, dignity and essential human rights have been stolen. They are coerced into sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, stealing, online pornography, and even compelled to “sell” skin organs. “
This inhumane business is far from slowing down-from 2012-2014, more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships, according to UNODC. In short, “the crime of human trafficking is occurring almost everywhere.”
In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent, says the report, adding that trafficking can, however, have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.
Many countries have criminalised most forms of trafficking as set out in the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol. The number of countries doing this has increased from 33 in 2003 to 158 in 2016. Such an exponential increase is welcomed and it has helped to assist the victims and to prosecute the traffickers, said Fedotov.
“Unfortunately, the average number of convictions remains low. UNODC’s findings show that there is a close correlation between the length of time the trafficking law has been on the statute books and the conviction rate.”
What Is Human Trafficking All About
The UN defines human trafficking as a crime that exploits women, children and men for numerous purposes including forced labour and sex.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally. This estimate also includes victims of human trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. While it is not known how many of these victims were trafficked, the estimate implies that currently, there are millions of trafficking in persons victims in the world.
“Every country in the world is affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims. Children make up almost a third of all human trafficking victims worldwide, according to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons.
Another important development is the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which produced the groundbreaking New York Declaration. Of the nineteen commitments adopted by countries in the Declaration, three are dedicated to concrete action against the crimes of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
Protect, Assist Trafficked Persons
This year, UNODC has chosen ‘act to protect and assist trafficked persons’ as the focus of the World Day.
This topic highlights one of the most pressing issues of our time — the large mixed migration movements of refugees and migrants.
The theme puts the spotlight on the significant impact of conflict and natural disasters, as well as the resultant, multiple risks of human trafficking that many people face.
And it addresses the key issue concerning trafficking responses: that most people are never identified as trafficking victims and therefore cannot access most of the assistance or protection provided.
Counter Trafficking in Persons Since the 90s
Meantime, the leading UN agency dealing with migrants reminds that it has been working to counter trafficking in persons since the mid-nineties.
“Our primary aims are to prevent trafficking in persons and to protect victims, in ordinary time and in crisis, while offering them support on their path to recovery, including through safe and sustainable (re)integration, return support to their home countries, or, in some circumstances, through third country resettlement, says the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Globally, it has so far assisted over 90,000 trafficked persons. “Ensuring freedom and a chance at a new life, IOM’s assistance includes safe accommodation, medical and psycho-social support, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration.”
For this, the UN agency works with governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, and other UN bodies “to protect victims of trafficking and associated forms of exploitation and abuse; to prevent such abuses from occurring; and to support the development and implementation of policies aimed at the prevention and prosecution of these crimes and the protection of victims.”
The agency’s approach is based on: respect for human rights; support for the physical, mental and social well-being of the individual and his or her community; and sustainability through capacity building and the facilitation of durable solutions for all beneficiaries.
South Africa: Trevor Noah Reaching the Pinnacle of Success
July 29, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Admire Kudita*
When South African stand up comedian Trevor took over John Stewart’s gig on American television’s the Daily Show, it was really the beginning of an improbable journey for the young Mzansi creative. But the odds were highly staked against an African outsider to succeed as anchor on a popular television property such as the Daily Show
To begin with, Noah started out at age 18 with a cameo role in Isidingo in 2002. Other roles were as a presenter on SABC Sports (Siyadlala), hosting The Real Goboza in 2007 and his own radio show Noah’s Ark on Gauteng’s leading youth radio station, YFM. Other television credits are hosting the South African Music and Film and Television Awards.Noah’s career is now in the same coveted league with Jay Leno and The David Letterman Show in America.
When Noah assumed the host position on the Daily Show the ratings took a knock which, of course, translated into a dip in advertising support for the television networks with the most compelling programming. When John Stewart left the show, 1.7million viewers were watching the show nightly. Trevor has recently hit a high of 1.045million. His 2015 debut was viewed by 1.019 million viewers. Ratings are all that matter in this business. According to Pew Research Center, 74 % of the viewership belongs in the well educated 18-49 age demographic.
The Daily Show is a news satire and late night talk which tackles the most trending socio- political topics in America and is produced by Comedy Central. Since February 2017, the show is now simulcasts on Black Entertainment Television and industry watchers attribute the development to Trevor Noah’s race as a man of colour.
More recently, Noah, riding a wave of popularity as the host of The Daily Show in the US, earned $3 million (R49m) for the deal with publishers, Spiegel & Grau in 2016. The book is “a collection of personal stories about growing up in South Africa during the last gasps of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that came with its demise”.
The book has been New York Times bestseller! The book’s audio version has garnered the number two position on Audible which is part of Amazon the online selling platform. Trevor Noah has also won the favourite African Star trophy at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles. He was named one of Time Magazine’s top ten Next Generation Leaders with the magazine calling him “the master of the eloquent Trump-takedown”.
Amongst his many accolades, the now A-list Trevor Noah has won the Outstanding Literary Work (Debut Author) and Outstanding Literary Work – (Biography/ Autobiography) to cap a meteoric rise in showbiz. ” (It is)Such an honour to receive two NAACP Image Awards for my book “Born a Crime”. Thank you to every single person who has shared in my story,”
Trevor commented upon receiving the award in the aftermath of the awards. Trevor Noah may well be Africa’s biggest entertainment export.
Women Advancing Africa placing women at the centre stage of Africa’s Economic Advancement
July 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
|The Women Advancing Africa Forum is set to bring some of the continent’s best and brightest minds together to shape a common agenda to accelerate the economic advancement of women in Africa|
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, July 28, 2017/ — The inaugural Women Advancing Africa (WAA) Forum is a new Pan-African flagship initiative launched by the Graça Machel Trust to acknowledge and celebrate the central role women play in shaping Africa’s development agenda and by driving social and economic transformation. The Forum will take place from 9-12 August in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania at the Hyatt Kilimanjaro.
Africa is in a second liberation era – the economic liberation. Women can no longer be secondary or marginal, and through Women Advancing Africa the Trust wants to enable women to take centre stage in the economic advancement of Africa. The Trust is establishing a platform for women to claim their right to sit at the table where the decisions are made and to shape the policies, plans and strategies for our futures and those of the generations to come.”
The Trust is honoured to have H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania and member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment join the WAA Forum to share her insights on issues that will be discussed over the four days. The Forum will consist of interactive sessions organised around three core pillars: Financial Inclusion, Market Access and Social Change.
With an estimated attendance of 200 participants from across the continent, the WAA Forum will play host to a diverse mix of women and youth representing thought leaders and influencers from the private sector, philanthropy, academia, civil society, government, development agencies and the media who will bring their voices, experiences and ideas to strategize, set priorities and craft a common agenda to drive Africa’s social and economic transformation.
A Social Progress Agenda
We are honoured to be joined by Gertrude Mongella, former President of the Pan African Parliament who will be joined by some of Africa’s leading women giants who have shaped the women’s movement in the past and will bring legacy and the future face to face in a gathering at the side of the Forum.
The WAA Forum will also celebrate the diversity of African culture and creativity in all its forms, from language, to design and fashion, to movie making and dance. This year’s Forum will celebrate African female writers and storytellers who are challenging the status quo, reshaping narratives and developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of the creative industries and their role in driving social progress.
Research looking at the Narrative and Economic participation of Women in Africa
The Graça Machel Trust’s Women in Media Network will also launch a research report on the coverage and portrayal of women in media entitled: “Women in Media – What is the Narrative?” The session will be broadcast as a Facebook Live event with interactive participation in the post launch In Conversation series to stimulate a broader conversation about the narrative of women in media as well as other storytelling formats and platforms.
Announcements will be made on the WAA website www.WomenAdvancingAfrica and the WAA Facebook page www.Women Advancing Africa – WAA, closer to the time.
A movement of women focused on economic advancement
The Trust would like to thank our generous partners who have helped make our vision a reality. Special thanks to The UPS Foundation, the Intel Foundation, American Tower Corporation, and UN Women. Media partners include: the ABN360 Group, incorporating CNBC Africa and Forbes Africa; the Nation Group and locally based Azam Media Group. The WAA Forum’s convening partner, APCO Worldwide has worked closely with the Graça Machel Trust, providing expertise and insights to develop this one-of-a-kind women’s network. These partners share the Trust’s belief that advancing women economically is crucial to the health and prosperity of African families, communities and nations.
The Graça Machel Trust is an organisation that works across the continent to drive positive change across women’s and children’s rights, as well as governance and leadership. Through our support of local initiatives and connecting key stakeholders at a regional, national and sub-national level, we help to catalyse action where it is needed. By using our convening power the Trust seeks to: amplify the voices of women and children in Africa; influence governance; promote women’s contributions and leadership in the economic social and political development of Africa.
The Network of African Business Women (NABW) provides women with opportunities to freely and effectively participate in the economic development of their countries through the establishment of sustainable business ventures. Through training, mentorship and capacity building, the Network supports business women’s associations and existing business women generating a much needed upsurge of growth-oriented, African women entrepreneurs.
The African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAB) addresses challenges in food security and identifies opportunities for women in the agricultural sector. The network advocates for initiatives that enhance women’s competitiveness in local and global markets. AWAB also seeks to foster market linkages for women, connecting them to projects in the agricultural sector that can improve their access to resources, knowledge and training.
New Faces New Voices (NFNV)
New Faces New Voices (NFNV) advocates for women’s access to finance and financial services. The network aims to bridge the funding gap in financing women-owned businesses in Africa and to lobby for policy and legislative changes. The overall objective of the network is to advance the financial inclusion of women by bringing more women into the formal financial system.
The Women in Media Network (WIMN) is the latest Pan-African network established by the Trust. It comprises a network of African women journalists who individually and collectively use their influence and voice to help shape and disseminate empowering storylines about Africa’s women and children.
Founded in 1984, APCO Worldwide is an independent global communication, stakeholder engagement and business strategy firm with offices in more than 30 major cities throughout the world. We challenge conventional thinking and inspire movements to help our clients succeed in an ever-changing world. Stakeholders are at the core of all we do. We turn the insights that come from our deep stakeholder relationships into forward-looking, creative solutions that always push the boundaries. APCO clients include large multinational companies, trade associations, governments, NGOs and educational institutions. The firm is a majority women-owned business
Rwanda to host prestigious World Travel Awards
July 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Jean-Pierre Afadhali
The World Travel Awards established in 1993, serve to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of global travel and tourism industry.
This year awards edition will also takes place in Africa for the first time, which could market the continent as a growing hospitality player in the global tourism industry.
World Travel Awards President and Founder, Graham Cooke, said: “It will be an honour for the World Travel Awards to visit Rwanda for the first time, later this year.”
“The heart of Africa, Rwanda has become rightfully known for its spectacular scenery – think thundering waterfalls, towering mountains and virgin rainforests – and rare wildlife. This is a fantastic opportunity for Rwanda to claim its rightful place as Africa’s rising star.”
In recent years the Great Lakes country has established itself as one of rising Africa’s destination hub; hosting global and continental business events.
According to a news release issued today by organizers, World Travel Awards Africa Gala Ceremony 2017 will take place at the five stars Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre – which features the first convention centre in Rwanda with room for up to 5,000 delegates – alongside the Africa Hotel Investment Forum (AHIF) and AviaDev Africa (10-12 October).
The leading hotel investment conference that connects business leaders from the international and local markets, driving investment into tourism projects, and infrastructure and hotel development across Africa, AHIF (www.africa-conference.com) is attended by the highest caliber international hotel investors of any conference in Africa.
Simultaneously AviaDev Africa (www.aviationdevelop.com) an event that bring together airports, airlines, governments, industry suppliers and tourism authorities to determine the future air connectivity and infrastructure development of Africa; will take place at the same venue alongside the hotel forum.
AviaDev provides an opportunity for the aviation and hotel development communities to share intelligence on their future plans, catalyzing tourism development on the continent.
Jonathan Worsley, Chairman, and Bench Events, the main organizer said: “I’m delighted that the World Travel Awards has chosen to hold its Africa ceremony on the main stage at AHIF,”
“ The combination of AHIF for hotel investment, AviaDev for aviation route planning and the WTA for excellence in travel, all happening at the same time and in the same place, is bound to focus more attention on the importance of a successful travel and hospitality industry to the economic future of Africa – and that has to be a good thing.”
Organizers say today, the World Travel Awards brand is recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire.
Many industry observers view AviaDev and AHIF as some of the biggest hospitality investments forums in Africa, resulting in business deals and major announcements in the growing tourism sector across the continent.
World Bank Review Reveals a Weakening of Policy and Institutional Performance in Africa
July 26, 2017 | 0 Comments
OUAGADOUGOU, July 24, 2017-The quality of policies and institutions weakened in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016 amid challenging economic conditions, according to the latest review by the World Bank. This weaker trend was observed in 40% of the region’s IDA countries, notably commodity exporters and fragile states.
FedEx Supports Global Road Safety Partnership Initiative In Namibia
July 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
As part of this initiative, the GRSP, Namibia Logistics Association, Namibia Transporters’ Association and the Namibia Red Cross Society will launch a targeted road safety intervention for the commercial vehicle sector in Namibia.
The initiative, supported by FedEx Corp, aims to create awareness about safe road practices, with the overall objective to reduce the number of vehicle accidents and incidents involving commercial vehicles.
More than 700 people lost their lives in accidents across Namibia in 2016. Accident statistics recorded by the Namibian Police Force (NamPol)’s Traffic Division between January and December 2016 show that 722 fatalities were reported¹.
According to the World Health Organization’s road traffic injuries factsheet, around 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes, with 90% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Road traffic injury death rates are highest in the African region².
“There are small habits that motorists can adopt to help remain safe on the roads,” said The Hon. Alpheus Naruseb, Minister of Works and Transport Namibia. “However, business and government should work together to address some of the challenges faced when raising awareness on road safety initiatives. The need for public-private collaboration is essential, not only for improving road infrastructure, but also for educating drivers and road users.”
Pieter Venter, regional manager Africa, GRSP, said, “The Global Road Safety Partnership aims to reduce death and serious injuries as a result of road crashes, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Experience shows us that engaging and collaborating with stakeholders across all levels brings about a change in practices, success and commitment to establish a safety culture. We are therefore looking forward to working with private and public sector organizations in Namibia.”
Mike Higley, Vice president, FedEx Express Southern Africa, said, “With more than 150,000 motorized vehicles on the road in more than 220 countries and territories around the globe, FedEx is an ideal source of knowledge and support for safe driving. ‘ Safety Above All’ is a core FedEx belief, and the reason why we support this and similar initiatives that promote road safety in communities across the globe. We wish all the organizations involved success in educating drivers about safe road habits and practices.”
The Global Road Safety Partnership is a hosted program of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and is a voluntary association of governments, businesses and civil society organizations.
FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to more than 220 countries and territories. FedEx Express uses a global air-and-ground network to speed delivery of time-sensitive shipments, by a definite time and date with a money-back guarantee.
FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $60 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world’s most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 400,000 team members to remain “absolutely, positively” focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities.
The African trade revolution quietly afoot
July 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
In a tumultuous year for the global trading landscape, negotiations for a huge Africa-wide free trade area are progressing rapidly.
BY DAVID LUKE*
Across the developed world, longstanding advocates of free trade are in retreat. America has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and stepped back from the World Trade Organisation. Meanwhile, a crisis is brewing at the heart of the European single market.
Recognition has grown that the inequalities generated by trade are not being sufficiently addressed. And this has fuelled an anti-trade populism.
Noting these tumultuous trends, international institutions from the OECD to the International Monetary Fund and G20 have sought to reaffirm the benefits of trade and argued against protectionism.
A quiet revolution
Set against this uproar, an African trade revolution is also quietly afoot. The innovation is the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). A boldly ambitious endeavour, the CFTA seeks to combine the economies of 55 African states under a pan-African free trade area comprising 1.2 billion people in a market with a combined GDP of $2.19 trillion.
Announced in 2012 by the African Union (AU) heads of state and government, the CFTA is the first flagship initiative of the AU’s Agenda 2063. It will reduce tariffs between African countries, introduce mechanisms to address the often more substantial non-tariff barriers, liberalise service sectors, and facilitate cross-border trade. This will also help rationalise the overlapping free trade areas that already exist within Africa.
The CFTA negotiations are complex. The 55 participating countries span a diversity of economic and geographic configurations. 15 are landlocked, while 6 are Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The biggest (Nigeria) has a GDP of $568 billion, while the smallest (Sao Tome & Principe) a GDP of just $337 million.
Many outside observers have been quick to cast pessimism upon the project. This is not just because of the challenging world trade environment and complexity of negotiations, but Africa’s history of trade negotiations.
In particular, the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the European Union and African regional economic communities have proved an infamous failure. Despite 14 years of negotiations, only one EPA – that with Southern Africa – has been concluded.
With expectations low, the rapid progress in the CFTA negotiations is therefore all the more remarkable. The first negotiating forum was launched in February 2016. Since then, five more negotiating rounds have been concluded.
The most recent, held in Niger, determined modalities for trade in goods and services. It also pronounced a level of ambition to liberalise 90% of tariff lines – substantially more than aspired to in the EPAs – and establish a review mechanism to gradually lift this further.
The remainder of 2017 will see technical working group meetings and two more negotiating rounds to refine market access offers and the legal text of the agreement. The intention is to finish negotiations by the end of this year.
One African chief negotiator commenting at the last negotiating round remarked that he had “never seen negotiations move so rapidly”.
Boosting intra-African trade
These impressive achievements are being realised by political commitment at the highest level and a pan-African resolve to cooperate and compromise. Pan-Africanist forefathers like Kwame Nkrumah would be proud.
Success also derives from a shared belief in the project. Studies by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and UNCTAD identify the potential for the CFTA to boost intra-African trade. This would help diversify Africa’s exports away from a dependence on commodities that is little changed since colonial times.
Intra-African trade is substantially more diversified than Africa’s trade with the outside world. It comprises a greater share of value-added and industrial products such as textiles, cement, soap, pharmaceuticals, and even automobiles from South Africa as well as primary and processed food items. Services such as banking, telecoms, energy and transport are also being traded across borders. The CFTA forms part of an African strategy for industrialising through trade.
It could also help piece together Africa’s small fragmented markets to realise economies of scale necessary for industrial investment and growth. Niger’s President Issoufou Mahamadou, the African Union Champion for the CFTA, recently lamented looking upon a map of Africa as a “broken mirror”. The CFTA can help to fix this.
Making it a win-win
The CFTA, however, is no panacea. It must be accompanied by investments in infrastructure, energy and trade facilitation.
This is critical if sufficient jobs are to be created for Africa’s youth. 60% of Africa’s population is 24 or below and about to enter the workforce. Yet a shortage of opportunities contributes to high youth unemployment, poverty rates approaching 70%, and pressures to migrate.
It is also important not to overlook the origins of populist sentiment against free trade elsewhere in the world. Trade produces both winners and losers. The problem is that while gains can compensate losses in theory, that is not happening in practice.
Recognition of this has fuelled rethinking of trade policy across the world. For instance, the Canada-European Union trade agreement (CETA) was reworked following the election of the Trudeau administration to better reflect a new “progressive trade policy”.
The CFTA must likewise be crafted as a win-win agreement that leaves no one behind. Here, the UN Economic Commission for Africa has undertaken a human rights impact assessment of the initiative and advocated for a number of supporting measures.
This includes strategies to protect small-holder farmers and help them integrate into regional agricultural value chains. It calls for improving border controls to help informal cross-border traders, many of whom are women and major players in intra-African trade.
It also demands an approach that benefits Africa’s diversity of countries, including those which are small, island economies, landlocked or fragile states. One way to achieve this is by supporting initiatives for regional value chains and connectivity that have proven successful in Africa’s regional economic communities.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Light shines at the end of the tunnel for the CFTA, but obstacles remain. Implementation is a key but persistent challenge on the continent. To quote Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former Chairperson of the AU Commission, “I don’t think Africa is short of policies. We have to implement. That is where the problem is”.
The commitment and belief shown in the CFTA by African leaders must be seen through for the benefits of the CFTA to be realised.
The reward would appear to be worth it. Africa’s consumer market is the fastest growing in the world. In just over 30 years from now, by 2050, it will comprise a population larger than that of India and China combined. This is the right time to seize the opportunities generated by such a large market.
*African Arguments.David Luke is Coordinator of the African Trade Policy Centre (ATPC) at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
A forgotten community: The little town in Niger keeping the lights on in France
July 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
Welcome to Arlit, the impoverished uranium capital of Africa.
From Niamey, the capital of the landlocked West African nation of Niger, we call ahead to a desert town in the remote north of the country.
“Journalists? On their way here? It’s been a while”, we hear down the phone from our contact. “We welcome you with open arms, but only on the pretence that you’re visiting to interview migrants on their way to Algeria. If they find out you’re poking your nose in their business, it’s a lost cause.”
That same evening, the public bus jolts as it sets off. Destination: the gates of the Sahara.
The stuffy subtropical heat gradually fades into scorching drought and plains of seemingly endless ochre sands. About two days later, we pass through a gateway with “Arlit” written on it in rusty letters.
The town of about 120,000 inhabitants is located in one of the Sahel’s most remote regions, not far from the Algerian border. The surrounding area is known to be the operating territory of numerous bandits and armed groups, including Islamist militants. It is like an island in the middle of the desert, an artificial oasis with only one raison d’être: uranium.
Areva in Arlit
For Arlit, 2 February 1968 was a crucial date. Eight years earlier, Niger had gained its independence from France, but now, the former colonial power was deepening its role in the country once again. After years of research, the French government had decided to open its first uranium mine in the area.
Starting production was relatively straightforward. “In the West you need a bookshelf full of permissions and certificates. In Niger, you give someone a spade and two dollars a day, and you’re mining uranium”, wrote journalist Danny Forston when he visited the town.
And so it went. The first shovel in the northern sand was accompanied by handshakes and the promise of an honest collaboration between one of the world’s least developed countries and its former coloniser. The French swore that Arlit would soon be known as Le Petit Paris.
Since then, approximately 150,000 tonnes of uranium have been extracted by the majority state-owned French company Areva, which is now one of the largest uranium producers in the world. The two mines around Arlit – Somaïr and Cominak – account for around a third of the multi-billion-dollar company’s total global production.
France uses this uranium to generate nuclear power, some of which is sold on to other European countries. According to Oxfam, over one-third of all lamps in France light up thanks to uranium from Niger.
However, in contrast to France, Niger has failed to see similar benefits. The West African country has become the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, which contributes tens of millions to the nation’s budget each year. Yet it has remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries, with almost half its 20 million population living below the poverty line. Its annual budget has typically been a fraction of Areva’s yearly revenue.
The main reason for this is the deal struck between Areva and Niger. The details have not been made public, but some journalists and activists such as Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry, have seen the agreement. Amongst other things, the documents suggest that the original deal generously exempted Areva from customs, export, fuel, materials and revenue taxes.
In 2014, Niger attempted to re-negotiate. As the agreement came up for renewal, the government called for the tax breaks to be removed and for the low royalty rate to be raised from 5.5% to 12-15%. Areva insisted this would make its activities unprofitable and suspended operations for two weeks during negotiations, officially for maintenance reasons.
Eventually a new deal was agreed, but the power dynamic between Areva and Niger had been made clear in the drawn out negotiations.
Apart from criticising the Nigerien government for not spending its uranium revenue where it is most needed – such as in health care, education and agriculture – Idrissa emphasises the bigger geopolitical picture: “Don’t forget that Niger isn’t just negotiating with a regular company, but with the French state. Their development aid, military and political support means that we cannot ignore our former coloniser. Our dependency from France goes hand in hand with crooked business deals.”
Forgotten in the desert
Exhausted from the long journey to Arlit, we’re received in the dingy office of Mouvement Unique des Organisations de la Société Civile d’Arlit (MUOSCA), a local umbrella group for environmental and humanitarian NGOs.
In the corner sits an old ventilator covered in cobwebs. It seems needless to ask if it still works. Either way, there’s no power today.
“If either Areva or the government were to find out you’re poking your nose in their business, they’ll go to any length to make your work very difficult”, says MUOSCA’s director Dan Ballan Mahaman Sani as he wipes the sweat from his brow. “Besides that, Westerners are attractive targets in this region.”
Indeed, there is a history of Islamist militant attacks and kidnappings in the area, including some directly targeting Areva. In 2010, seven of the company’s employees were abducted, including five French nationals. In 2013, an attack on the Somaïr mine left one dead and 16 injured.
While the world held its breath as armed groups stepped up operations in the region, Areva, managed to extract over 4,000 tons of uranium, up from two years before, without too much trouble.
Dan Ballan says this illustrates how far the Nigerien uranium industry stands apart from the country’s social environment and how isolated Arlit has become especially amidst regional insecurity.
“International NGOs or UN agencies don’t exist here, and Areva has nothing to fear from the Nigerien government,” he says. “We’re literally a forgotten community, completely left to the mercy of the multinational.”
According to Dan Ballan and others, the uranium mining industry has taken a huge toll on Arlit and the region. While Areva has a multi-billion-dollar turnover, the majority of people here live in a patchwork of corrugated iron shelters on sandstone foundations. Poverty is rife. Power outages lasting two or more days are regarded as normal.
Moreover, while the uranium mines consume millions of litres each day, only a small proportion of Arlit’s Nigerien population enjoy running water. A 2010 Greenpeace studyestimated that 270 billion litres of water had been used by the mines over decades of operations, draining a fossil aquifer more than 150 metres deep. The depletion of these ancient water reserves has contributed to desertification and the drying up of vegetation.
“There’s not much fauna and flora left here. Local herdsmen left years ago,” says a water seller by the side of the road. Each day, he fills 25-litre containers with water from wells outside of town, and pushes a cart loaded with them into the city centre.
An elderly customer buys his daily portion of water, while the seller casually wipes off a layer of red dust from the can. “Look at this,” says the man. “All this while, a few kilometres away, Areva consumes millions of litres a day.”
The water in Arlit, however, is not only scarce. Researchers over the years also suggest that, along with the soil and air, it contains alarming levels of radiotoxins.
Bruno Chareyon, director of the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radiation (CRIIAD), has been measuring radioactivity in and around Arlit for over a decade. His studies from 2003 and 2004 suggested that the drinking water contains levels of uranium at ten to hundred times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety standards.
“Despite these findings, Areva has stated continuously that they haven’t measured any excess radioactivity during their biannual examinations,” he says.
In 2009, Greenpeace conducted their own tests and found that five of six examined wells – all used to get drinking water – contained excess radioactivity as well as traces of toxins such as sulphates and nitrates.
When asked about this, Moussa Soley, Areva’s spokesperson in Niger, answered that this was simply the result of “natural contamination”.
At the bustling local market in Arlit, down some meandering alleyways, there are the normal wares, but among them one finds some more peculiar items: large industrial cogs; parts of metal cranes; digging equipment; and even a dump truck.
“All of these are cast-downs from the mines,” says Dan Ballan. “Useless material finds its way to local merchants, who recuperate it and sell it on. Most of them have no idea of the risks.”
CRIIRAD readings of goods at the market from 2003 and 2004 showed radioactivity levels at up to 25 times the maximum standards. “People buy radioactive material to cook with, build their homes with, or raise their children with,” says Dan Ballan.
Back in 2004, Areva admitted that mining equipment finds its way to markets, but said that it was doing its best to counter these activities with local authorities. The scrap metal found at the market suggests Areva’s campaign has not been fully effective.
As well as old discarded equipment, the mining industry also produces enormous amounts of toxic waste – around 5,000 tons per ton of extracted uranium. Over the years, hills of this debris have built up, containing radioactive substances such as radium, polonium, arsenic and poisonous radon gasses.
Areva’s spokesperson Solley insists that this does not pose any risk to the environment. “The open air makes sure the particles are spread around the adjacent areas,” he says. “The decay starts after just a couple of days and values are so low that there is no possibility of poisoning.”
Greenpeace and CRIIRAD confirm that radioactive dust spreads far and wide, sometimes to hundreds of kilometres away. But contrary to claims of a “superfast decay”, they say that while some products have half-lives of just days, others have half-lives of tens of years.
Furthermore, researchers say that radioactive waste is not simply dispersed. “The same radioactive rubble was used in Arlit on more than one occasion for landfills or building roads and homes”, alleges Chareyron. In 2007, CRIIRAD found that some road surfaces had radioactive values over a hundred times standard values.
After these findings, Areva claimed to have solved the problem, but Greenpeace came across similar findings in 2009. One measurement found levels over five hundred times higher than international safety standards. “This means that a person spending less than one hour a day at that location would be exposed to more than the maximum allowable annual dose,” explained one of the researchers.
Following Greenpeace’s study, Areva published its own report, denying all the environmental NGO’s allegations and highlighting its role in the Nigerien economy and for development. Areva argued that Greenpeace’s “anti-nuclear and Manichean discourse is based on public fears and disinformation, which only advocates for confrontation between local populations and the multinational.”
African Arguments’ own repeated requests for comments from Areva’s headquarters regarding various allegations were all declined.
Living with uranium
It is not difficult to come across Arlit residents suffering from serious health problems. In Akokan, a nearby community predominantly inhabited by Areva employees, we meet Hammett, 47, under a rusty shed.
“I had to quit because of unbearable pains in my joints, but I can consider myself lucky,” says the former worker. “The cases of heart attacks, strange skin conditions or permanent migraines in this place cannot be counted.”
Our conversation is interrupted by a deep thudding bang. “They’re digging in the Somaïr mine”, he explains. “The heavier the explosions, the faster they can get to work. And the more radioactive dust whirls down over Akokan.”
Elsewhere in town, Cissé, who was a technician at Areva for 25 years, limps along the road. Through the years, his right leg slowly became paralysed. “I got fired when I couldn’t perform anymore,” he says. With that, Cissé lost the right to Areva health care. “I don’t have the means to get my leg looked at elsewhere. I can only hope that one day it will get better.”
Fatima, a local inhabitant of about 50 years old, also claims to have had major health complications. “I’ve had four miscarriages and at the moment I’m suffering of an unknown skin condition on my legs,” she says. She lifts up her garments up to her knees, revealing a peculiar rash.
When asked about safety precaution for employees, Adamou Maraye, who is responsible for radiation protection at Cominak, reveals that miners are exposed to radiation up to 300 times the natural value. “That’s why we make them wear mouth masks and gloves. That should suffice as precautionary measure against radiotoxic substances”, he says, somewhat alarmingly.
The only hospitals in Arlit are run by Areva, with all the medical staff on the company payroll. The government provides no healthcare here. At the Cominak facility, Dr Alassane Seydou claims to have never diagnosed someone with a disease that could be linked to radiation or toxins. He says that in more than 40 years, not a single case of cancer has been discovered. “All employees are systematically examined, but we haven’t encountered any strange diseases,” he claims.
In 2005, the French law association Sherpa launched an investigation into Areva’s activities in Arlit. Speaking to them, one former employee at Somaïr hospital alleged that patients with cancer had been knowingly miscategorised as having HIV or malaria. The surgeon-in-chief at the hospital denied those claims.
There have been no official, large-scale health studies conducted in Arlit, but some smaller-scale studies give an indication of the prevalence of illness among residents and former Areva employees.
In 2013, the Nigerien organisation Réseau Nationale Dette et Développement interviewed 688 former Areva workers. Almost one quarter of them had suffered severe medical issues, ranging from cancer and respiratory problems to pains in their joints and bones. At least 125 had stopped work because of these health issues.
A similar survey was carried out on French former employees around the same time. In 2012, Areva was found culpable in the death of Serge Venel, an engineer in Arlit from 1978-1985. A few months before his passing, doctors had found that his cancer was caused by the “breathing of uranium particles”. The case went to court, with the judge ordering Areva to pay compensation for its “inexcusable fault”. Before the court of appeals, only the Cominak mine was found responsible.
Following the verdict, Venel’s daughter, Peggy Catrin-Venel, founded an organisation to protect the rights of former Areva employees. As part of this project, she managed to trace around 130 of about 350 French workers who had lived in Arlit at the same time as her father. 60% of those she was able to find information on had already died, most of them from the same cancer as her father.
Catrin-Venel continues to fight against Areva, but she is not alone. As shown in the documentary Uranium, L’héritage Empoisonné, Jacqueline Gaudet is also standing up to the company.
She founded the organisation Mounana after she lost her father, mother and husband all to cancer in the space of just a few years. Her husband and father had worked at an Areva uranium mine in Gabon, while her mother lived there in a house built from mining rubble. Their cancers were reportedly caused by excessive exposure to radon, which is released during uranium extraction. In collaboration with lawyers from Sherpa and Doctors of the World, Gaudet’s organisation works to collect testimonies from former employees in order to build cases.
For Michel Brugière, former director of Doctors of the World, it’s still unthinkable that so many employees of the French state-owned company could fall ill like this. Speaking in the documentary, he commented: “How can one allow one’s staff to live and work in such a polluted environment? This is unbelievable. It’s reminiscent of long gone abuses.”
In the same vein, Greenpeace describes Arlit as a forgotten battlefield of the nuclear industry. “There are few places where the catastrophic effects of uranium mining on nearby communities and the environment are felt more distinctly than in Niger”, said researcher Andrea Dixon.
Back in Arlit, the stories of French former employees standing up to Areva are well-known. But the struggle for Nigerien workers to get recognised is even steeper than in Europe. “Both the legal system and the financial means to stand up for our rights are lacking”, says Dan Ballan. “In a couple of years, the uranium reserves will be depleted and Areva will leave, however the pollution and underdevelopment will stay behind.”
He may be right, but Areva will not be going far. About 80km away, a third and enormous new Nigerien uranium mine called Imouraren is being developed. “Lacking any perspective of another job, the workers will eventually move wherever the mine is”, says the local activist.
In our last hours in Arlit we drive around in town. It’s the afternoon, the sky is dark red, and a harsh wind is blowing. A new sandstorm is gathering. We try not to think of the particles it carries from the radioactive hills.
The stormy twilight reveals bright yellow grains by the side of the road. “Sulphur,” our driver says. “It’s used in the mines, but it’s everywhere.” Between the yellow dust, a boy draws figures in the sand.
Along the so-called uranium route, which connects Arlit with Agadez and the Nigerien capital, we finally leave the mining area. It’s the same road Areva uses to transport the uranium to the West African ports. From there, much of it is shipped on to one of 58 French nuclear plants where it’s used to power light bulbs, computers and technologies – all thousands of miles away from dusty Nigerien desert and Arlit, the little town that pays the ultimate price to keep the lights on in France.
*African Arguments.Lucas Destrijcker is a Belgian freelance journalist and photographer focusing on (forced) migration, conflict and development. He works as a reporting officer for the United Nations in the Central African Republic. Mahadi Diouara is a Malian journalist, photographer and cameraman specialising in the Sahel region and Francophone Africa. He worked for AFP, France 24 and Reuters, for which he reported from his home town Gao during the civil war in 2012 and 2013. Today he has his own communication agency in Bamako.This story was realised with the support of Free Press Unlimited and the Lira Starting Grant for Young Journalists of the Fonds voor Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.